I can honestly say on Wednesday, 17 February, 2016, I experienced as far as I remember the most out-of-body experience of my life (outside of delivering another human being while on heavy drugs). My ceremony for the OBE was set at the Priory at my request. I haven't got a British passport so am not allowed to go to the palace and meet the Queen in case I start another Tea Party Revolution, I suppose. It was Mental Health week so I was paying homage to those who suffer from the stigma.
My husband Ed and I had gone there the day before to arrange the balloons emblazed with OBE on them and heard the horrible news that Wing Commander Mike Dudgeon, (Vice Lord Lieutenant of Greater London) wasn't allowed to bring his sword. (I'm aware that I was in the Priory near those who self-harm but I couldn't imagine someone nabbing the sword and running amok through the halls). No one has ever received an OBE before within these walls so it was a novel situation. Sam, who was in charge of everything, said she was in the military and the sword must be present because that's the way things are done.
The day came and we welcomed my friends who all had the opportunity to pose next to a cardboard cut out of the Queen as if she was greeting them. Tea was served (no alcohol for obvious reasons). After tea, we were ushered into the Chapel where the very dignified Kay Brock LVO DL - another Deputy Lieutenant - gave a formal speech about my work for mental health and then, with great pomp and a bow, Mike presented me with my OBE. I stood there rigid and smiling insanely as Mike gave me my full regal title, not knowing if I should salute or curtsey. I was so overcome with the gravitas of it all; the British-ness.
To break the solemnity, Derek, (teacher of yoga, boxersize and Tai Chi in the Priory) gave everyone present a salsa class. Let me try and describe the vision of Derek. He's an ex-Chippendale; seriously pumped to the max, glistening in oil and sweat. He's one big bulge, wearing tight stretchy, revealing work-out pants and a matching short tight nylon top so the whole rack of six pack is staring at you. He's blonde, wears a bandana and is a walking tattoo. Anyone who tried to get out of dancing he'd bellow at. "Get your butt in here, move those hips like you mean it and you don't finish till I'm finished with you." We danced to 'Pit Bull' blaring from his beat box while he barked, "kick it and hump it and turn, turn, twist, give me crotch people". I heard him once say during a class when I was an inmate "I don't care if you're a schizophrenic, that is the front of the room, those are the walls - don't try and walk through them." There were my friends, in their socks, obediently learning complicated Come Dancing steps. Finally Derek gave us all high fives and we were dismissed.
Imagine being an inmate of the Priory, coming off drugs or seriously mentally ill and you get Derek yelling, "Hump it". Strangely enough it works. I'm sure I got better much quicker by dancing for Derek, forgetting my depression for an hour scared Derek would punish me if I didn't get the footwork right.
To this day I'm still a great salsa dancer and remembered all the steps from when I was a patient. He told everyone I was the most bolshie inmate he ever taught, that even in my gormless state, I'd always snap him an brusque, abusive one-liner. I want to thank the Queen and all involved for making the unthinkable, thinkable and even better, do-able.
Ruby's new book - A Mindfulness Guide For The Frazzled - is out now and available in all good bookshops, as well as online.
The Frazzled tour will start in April 2016 - be the first to know more